Cable Company NTL Abandons ITV Bid

Cable and telephone company NTL said Wednesday it has abandoned its takeover bid for Britain's largest independent television broadcaster ITV and will concentrate on integrating its business units.

NTL's interest in ITV effectively was thwarted when British Sky Broadcasting moved swiftly to become ITV's largest shareholder with a 17.9% stake.

"NTL has submitted its views on this purchase to the Office of Fair Trading and OFCOM (Office of Communications), because it presents serious competition and public interest issues," NTL said in a statement to the London Stock Exchange. "The fact that Sky would spend nearly $2 billion to acquire its stake immediately following the mere announcement of NTL's proposed combination, before the ITV board had an opportunity to respond, highlights the magnitude of the competition issues involved."

NTL bought rival cable operator Telewest Global in March. In May, the company bought Richard Branson's Virgin Mobile Holdings for about 962 million pounds ($1.9 billion). Branson emerged as NTL's biggest shareholder.

"In the first quarter of 2007, NTL will rebrand to Virgin Media and will exploit its unique ability to offer an unrivalled quad-play of digital TV, broadband, mobile and home phone services," the company said. "The rebranding is underpinned by a substantial improvement in customer service and operational efficiency, both hallmarks of the Virgin brand."

NTL announced on Nov. 9 that it had approached ITV about a possible bid. Sky swooped in to buy its stake in ITV on Nov. 17, and ITV formally rejected NTL's approach four days later.

ITV, a commercial broadcaster troubled by falling ratings and revenue, bolstered its defenses last week by luring Michael Grade away from his post of chairman of the British Broadcasting Corp. to become the company's executive chairman.